Quantitative benzimidazole resistance and fitness effects of parasitic nematode beta-tubulin alleles

Clayton M. Dilks, Steffen R. Hahnel, Qicong Sheng, Lijiang Long, Patrick T. McGrath, Erik C. Andersen*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Infections by parasitic nematodes inflict a huge burden on the health of humans and livestock throughout the world. Anthelmintic drugs are the first line of defense against these infections. Unfortunately, resistance to these drugs is rampant and continues to spread. To improve treatment strategies, we must understand the genetics and molecular mechanisms that underlie resistance. Studies of the fungus Aspergillus nidulans and the free-living nematode Caenorhabditis elegans discovered that a beta-tubulin gene is mutated in benzimidazole (BZ) resistant strains. In parasitic nematode populations, three beta-tubulin alleles, F167Y, E198A, and F200Y, have long been correlated with resistance. Additionally, improvements in sequencing technologies have identified new alleles - E198V, E198L, E198K, E198I, and E198Stop - also correlated with BZ resistance. However, none of these alleles have been proven to cause resistance. To empirically demonstrate this point, we independently introduced the F167Y, E198A, and F200Y alleles as well as two of the newly identified alleles, E198V and E198L, into the BZ susceptible C. elegans N2 genetic background using the CRISPR-Cas9 system. These genome-edited strains were exposed to both albendazole and fenbendazole to quantitatively measure animal responses to BZs. We used a range of concentrations for each BZ compound to define response curves and found that all five of the alleles conferred resistance to BZ compounds equal to a loss of the entire beta-tubulin gene. These results prove that the parasite beta-tubulin alleles cause resistance. The E198V allele is found at low frequencies along with the E198L allele in natural parasite populations, suggesting that it could affect fitness. We performed competitive fitness assays and demonstrated that the E198V allele reduces animal health, supporting the hypothesis that this allele might be less fit in field populations. Overall, we present a powerful platform to quantitatively assess anthelmintic resistance and effects of specific resistance alleles on organismal fitness in the presence or absence of the drug.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)28-36
Number of pages9
JournalInternational Journal for Parasitology: Drugs and Drug Resistance
StatePublished - Dec 2020


  • Anthelmintic resistance
  • Benzimidazoles
  • C. elegans
  • Competitive fitness effects
  • High-throughput assays

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Parasitology
  • Infectious Diseases
  • Pharmacology (medical)

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